Success No Suprise with Parcells

OK, let's be serious. Who's really surprised that Bill Parcells has turned the formerly moribund Cowboys into winners? Parcells' track record is impeccable: three successful reclamation projects in three tries with the Giants, Patriots and Jets, including three Super Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl victories.

And, though the swiftness of the Cowboys' turnaround is startling, it was no doubt expected.

No, the real shocker is that this revival, which has the NFC East-leading Cowboys (4-1) looking for a fifth straight win against the Lions (1-4) Sunday, has been keyed by an "Air Bill" offense that would make Don Coryell blush.

Parcells, 62, whose previous rebuilding projects were mostly led by stout defenses and run-oriented, ball-control offenses, has abandoned his grind-it-out style for a yards-by-the-bushel attack that ranks fourth in the league in offense.

The Cowboys are second in the league in big plays with 26 of at least 20 yards or more. Quarterback Quincy Carter leads all quarterbacks who have thrown more than 100 passes in yards per attempt and has a touchdown pass of at least 30 yards in four of the first five games.

"We all knew about his conservative reputation," Cowboys receiver Joey Galloway said. "So you expected one thing. But he quickly adapted to the talent here and has just opened things up. It's been fun playing football on offense this year. It's fun winning, but we are doing our part and contributing to it."

Said Carter: "His motto is to get the run game going. He wants to run the football. But, if he has the weapons on the outside and a triggerman to throw the football, he will throw it, too. He is diverse in what he wants to do. He is a run-oriented guy, but he will do whatever it takes to win the game."

On second thought, Parcells' flexibility is not that much of a surprise, considering his successful past. As owner Jerry Jones says, people are successful because they have the ability to adapt to all situations.

Besides, Parcells threw the ball a lot in New England with quarterback Drew Bledsoe and receiver Terry Glenn. He also opened things up a bit with the Jets and quarterback Vinny Testaverde and receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

However, in each of those situations he had a balanced attack with running back Curtis Martin.

In Dallas, Parcells and offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon are directing a pass-first offense built around a speedy trio of receivers: Galloway; Glenn, who was acquired in an off-season trade; and Antonio Bryant. The Cowboys have had a 100-yard receiver in each game. All three are averaging at least 15.1 yards per catch, with Galloway leading the way with 19 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown.

"Once I got into training camp, I thought we could exploit teams with our receivers," Parcells said. "I didn't know Joey and Antonio that well. I knew Joey from playing against him. I felt Terry would produce. I believe we have some guys who can score with the ball."

Jones said Parcells actually began talking about using a wide-out oriented attack during minicamps after assessing that his best offensive players were receivers. Questions surrounding the running game and the ability of Troy Hambrick to produce were also deciding factors.

"He felt we had to get [the receivers] the ball whether it was on reverses or short passes," Jones said.

The only problems with the plan were the uncertainties at quarterback and along the offensive line.

"Could we block well enough to get the ball downfield and did we have a quarterback who could get them the ball?" Jones said. "Those were the questions we needed answering. Quincy and the offensive line have come through in a big way."

Carter has indeed come through. Even though he beat out Chad Hutchinson to regain the starting job in training camp, passing and accuracy weren't considered his strong suits. During failed stints at quarterback in 2001 and 2002, the Cowboys had the league's 31st-ranked passing offense both seasons.

But, so far in 2003, not only has Carter proved to be one of the most improved players the NFL, but he has also keyed the Cowboys' big-play offense with precision passing and bold throws. Of the 26 plays of 20 yards of more, 22 have been passes. And, with 1,177 yards passing in five games, Carter is on pace for a 4,000-yard season -- something future Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman never accomplished in 12 seasons with Dallas.

"It all makes perfect sense to me," Cowboys tight end Dan Campbell said. "If anything, it was a matter of how far Quincy could come along, and he has done just fine. That's why we are able to make the big play. Quincy is throwing the ball well."

As their comfort and confidence has grown with Carter at the helm, the Cowboys have opened things up -- so much so that Hambrick says the offense is being "run through Quincy right now."

SERIES HISTORY: 18th meeting. The Lions lead the series 9-8. The Lions have won three straight against the Cowboys and eight of the last 10.The Cowboys have won three of 11 meetings in Detroit, the last being in 1992.

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